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Boston police officer violated state’s conflict of interest law, panel says

A Boston Police officer violated a conflict of interest law.
A Boston Police officer violated a conflict of interest law.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

A Boston police officer violated the state’s ethics law by creating a fake criminal complaint for his friend’s brother, an MBTA bus driver who overslept and missed work on the Fourth of July in 2016, officials said Wednesday.

James Clark, a member of the department for more than 25 years, violated the conflict of interest law when he filled out the false paper document five years ago, the Massachusetts Ethics Commission said in a statement.

After the commission found probable cause that the veteran officer had violated the law, Clark agreed to waive his right to a hearing, and instead agreed for the violation to be announced via a public education letter, the statement said.

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The law bars municipal employees from using or trying to use their official positions to obtain special privileges for themselves or others, according to the commission. The commission concluded that issuing the letter would serve the public interest better than a hearing because it would help inform others, including public employees, of the law, it said.

Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a Boston police spokesman, said the department had investigated three charges against Clark.

“An internal affairs investigation was conducted and Officer James Clark was sustained on conduct unbecoming, while the charges of untruthfulness and conformance to laws were not sustained. The discipline process is still ongoing,” Boyle said.

A spokeswoman for the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association declined to comment. Clark’s attorney did not immediately respond to an e-mail message Wednesday evening.

Clark’s friend’s brother, who is not identified in the letter, was an MBTA bus driver who in July 2016 was subject to immediate firing for any violation of the T’s attendance policy, according to the letter. When the driver overslept and missed work on July 4, 2016, he falsely claimed that he had been arrested, the commission said.

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Clark initially turned down the driver’s request for documentation that he had been arrested, but he eventually agreed to assist him, according to the commission.

Clark admitted to creating a false application for a criminal complaint using a paper form, taken from a police storage closet, that was “obsolete” because the department had switched to an electronic system, according to the letter.

But Clark denied that he knew the driver intended to use it to explain his absence from work, saying instead that he believed the driver would use the document to explain his whereabouts to his girlfriend, the commission said.

In the false document, Clark wrote that the driver had been arrested and identified his ex-girlfriend as the victim in the case, according to the letter, which did not provide the offense that was alleged in the application. Clark wrote that the offense had occurred at a random address, gave a fake officer’s name and police report number, and signed the document with an illegible scrawl, the letter says.

The application was never filed in court or entered into police records, according to the statement. When MBTA officials discovered that no charges were filed against the driver, he admitted that he had overslept, missed work, and obtained the false document from Clark, the commission said.

The driver resigned from the MBTA on July 19, 2016, according to the letter.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.